NYSC Youth Trust Fund: A Compelling Legacy- HURIWA

*HURIWA CONDEMNS MALICIOUS REPORT ON THE NYSC YOUTHS TRUST FUND:

Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the malicious, and totally fake report on the soon to be inaugurated NYSC youth’s Trust Fund, carried by Sahara reporters.

The online paper falsely reported that the NYSC Youth Trust Fund is actually not what we (Nigerians) were told is going to be but that it is a retirement payment scheme for top military Generals.

Nothing can be further from the truth and to journalistic. It is so unprofessional and unethical for any media outlet to churn out wholly fabricated tales in the guise of news report.

We in HURIWA have followed through the processes of advocacy campaigns for the passage of this bill and indeed we even presented a professorial text supporting it before the National Assembly.

HURIWA believes that the NYSC Youths Trust Fund existentially, empirically and factually has nothing to do with military Generals because under the Act setting up NYSC since over 48 years ago, the NYSC is not a military project but a project for Nigerian Youths which is why NYSC is under the supervisory purview of the federal ministry of youths and sports controlled by a civilian.

So where did Sahara reporters get the information that the NYSC Youths Trust Fund is meant to fund the retirements of military Generals?

Is there no statutory institution under the ministry of Defence that settles retirement emoluments of Soldiers? What really is Nigerian Press Council doing and why are there too many fake news in circulation by untrained hands?

Here below is a snippet of what the online newspaper wrote:SAHARAREPORTERS MALICIOUSLY REPORTED THAT: “According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, it is however seen as a slush fund for the military, where monies are disbursed to top military officers at the behest of the Chief of Army Staff. The current DG of the NYSC is Brig. Gen. Mohammed Fada while the immediate past DG is Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim. As a DG of the NYSC, you are mandated to service top military officers. This was the trend until the former DG, Major General Shuaibu Ibrahim proposed the NYSC Trust Fund, where it was systematically positioned to take care of the retirement needs of senior officers.The NYSC Trust fund will provide funding for these officers through proxies that would receive monies on their behalf. I can tell you there is excitement within the top echelon of the military, and they have consequently mounted pressure for its speedy passage into law.”

Another source who is an aide to a member of the House of Representatives stated that the pressure to pass the bill has been tremendous, mainly from the military. “During the tenure of the immediate past DG of the NYSC, Major General Ibrahim, the DG was in the habit of making financial offers to members of the committee. At some point, he offered to concede the contract for the supply of essential items at the various orientation camps to the lawmakers if they could pass the bill in record time. I think he succeeded in a way given the bill’s speedy passage.

“The former NYSC DG ensured that most of the members of the House of Representatives were taken care of in numerous ways.

“The rot in the NYSC is phenomenal. Let us forget the public posturing concerning the benefits of the NYSC Trust Fund. If only Nigerians knew what went on behind the scene. And the question was that if indeed the NYSC Trust Fund is meant to serve the country, then why the desperation to get it passed,” the source said.

It was also gathered from reliable sources that the former DG, Ibrahim concocted the bulk of the provisions of the NYSC Trust Fund to attract more funds at their disposal to continue serving specific interests.The NYSC Trust Fund is not what people think; rather, it is another avenue for attracting more funds from the pool to do the bidding of some powerful elements within the Nigerian military, under whose supervision the NYSC falls,” a top official of the scheme told SaharaReporters.”

HURIWA believes that these claims are concocted and malicious. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 is dedicated to “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all”. It is part of improving human capital development. Economic progress achieved by any society is strongly associated with the quality of its human capital and social interaction. The Trust Fund will help prioritize human capital development and social inclusion as a central anchor of our nation’s development agenda.

Inclusive growth is economic growth that raises standards of living for broad swaths of a population. Proponents for inclusive growth warn that inequitable growth may have adverse political outcomes, which essentially is growth without development. If economic growth is achieved without social development at the grassroots level, it will not only widen inequality but also give rise to socio-economic paranoia, socio-political unrest and instability. Growth without development will have dangerous socio-political consequences that could undermine the very essence of freedom and democracy. This is a malignant growth in Nigeria’s polity that the NYSC Trust Fund promises to cure.

The growing insecurity in Nigeria is largely as a result of inclusivity in national development. The lawmakers should endeavour to build an inclusive society where women and men shall be equal citizens; where youths and women shall be part of the government and shall have their voice heard and one way is pushing the Trust Fund Bill to its logical conclusion.

The nation needs to build an economic environment where business ideas will not be killed but nurtured into business empires; where men and women of skills shall realize their dreams and potentials. The youths have to be encouraged to strive collectively to end poverty, hunger and deprivation in the land using instruments such as the planned Youth Fund.

Still on social inclusion and poverty reduction using the Trust Fund; it is about having an inclusive society that is just, stable, tolerant and safe; a society where all members have equal opportunities, equal access to social benefits and equal rights to determine the set and pattern of social institutions that govern their social relations.

Sustainable economic growth requires inclusive growth and achieving inclusive growth economic planners consciously empower the vulnerable groups as planned by the NYSC Trust Fund. Maintaining this is sometimes difficult because economic growth may give rise to negative externalities, such as a rise in corruption, which is a major problem of Nigeria as a developing country.

Research has shown that an emphasis on inclusiveness – especially on equality of opportunity in terms of access to markets, resources, and an unbiased regulatory environment – is an essential ingredient of successful growth. The inclusive growth approach takes a longer-term perspective, as the focus is on productive employment as a means of increasing the incomes of poor and excluded groups and raising their standards of living.

From time, it has been observed that economic growth hardly carries every segment of the society along, making way for growth without development becoming the order of the day. Inclusive Growth ensures growth and development by directly addressing the Human Development Indexes (HDIs) – poverty, unemployment and income inequality.

NYSC Trust Fund on its final stage of passing into law in the House of Representatives is actually meant to address Inclusive Growth in Nigeria and this fact was well canvassed during the public hearing on the Bill which was held on Thursday, February 24, 2021. At the said public hearing on the National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund bill, the Director-General of NYSC, Major-General Shuaibu Ibrahim informed the nation that the Bill sought to address the infrastructural deficit in the orientation camps, ensure adequate provision of other operational logistics, as well as address the problem of graduate unemployment in the country.

Now that the consideration of the Bill for the NYSC Trust Fund has progressed steadily having passed second reading at the Green Chamber to reach the last stage, the law makers should put their seal on the revolutionary legislation. There is no doubt that when the NYSC Trust Fund becomes operational, the number of corps entrepreneurs will increase drastically, and they will in turn help to provide jobs for millions of other youths of the country. This will equally help reduce the issue of security challenges faced in the country.

It is instructive that the majority of the lawmakers are products of the scheme as most of them are graduates of tertiary institutions who have participated in the scheme. From their varying and variegated experience going through the scheme, they will agree that corps members are grossly underutilized and one sure way of unleashing the real potential of the corps members is to empower them to be able to acquire new skills and put to use their training.

It is important to point out that where the world economy is headed is digitization and ICT. Since this is the fact, developing the digital economy and digital ecosystems are some of the newer challenges confronting the Nigerian nation at the moment. However, issues surrounding digitization are amenable to youths and will likely be their first port of call for the NYSC members who will be empowered. The Nigerian nation will therefore be killing many birds with just one stone with the NYSC Trust Fund – indirectly building digital economy, digital ecosystems, digital entrepreneurs, and many more since the youths cluster there.

The dynamo effect of the coming NYSC Trust Fund is predictably foreseeable. Nigerian youths are creative, resilient, upwardly mobile and ambitious. Yes many will fall by the wayside but a greater majority shall grow through that intervention and become self-made, self-reliant and more importantly, employers of labour in no distant time. That is the big picture that should form the allure for the lawmakers. For if the NYSC scheme were a school, Nigerian graduates under 30 by graduation are all alumni. Those of them in the House of Reps at the moment should consider themselves alumni and pass the Trust Fund into law as a way of giving back to the institution, which made most of them. The alma mater shall not die but live to full its God-given mandate of uniting and developing Nigeria, the largest black nation on planet earth.

The big idea behind the Trust Fund is to be able to ensure the provision of a sustainable source of funding for the scheme and the training and retraining of corps members participating in the programme. It also seeks to provide a sustainable source of funds for the scheme so as to support the skill acquisition, training and empowerment of corps members as well as training and retraining of the personnel of NYSC. Thereby promote and complement the spirit of self-reliance and entrepreneurship among the corps members.

Most importantly, this innovative fund is geared towards supporting the development of Nigeria through the reduction of unemployment particularly amongst the youth who will hopefully take advantage of the provisions of the Bill and the Fund itself to wean themselves off dependence on white collar jobs that are simply not there. When passed into law, private organisations are expected to contribute one percent of their net profit to the fund, while 0.2 percent of total revenue accruing to the Federation Account will be earmarked for the fund. This will be channeled towards improving the general welfare of corps members and enhancing their preparedness to effectively discharge their statutory duties of promoting national unity, integration, self-reliance and accelerated development of the economy.

The already existing Entrepreneurship Development programme of the National Youth Service Scheme (SAED) is not total and comprehensive enough to harness the endowed potentials, skills and chosen field of corps members and therefore needs this fund to enhance its achievements so far and this shortfall is what the Fund is expected to address. One also recognizes the fact that empowering the youths is part of the government’s effort to diversify the economy and also a way of reducing poverty and crime rate in the society while at the same time providing an environment that encourages inclusiveness and a variety of interests and opinions for the growth and development of a nation.

As laudable as this piece of legislation is, one can also make haste to point out that it is one thing to make a law with far-reaching benefits as this Trust Fund is and another to manage it in such a way that its aims and objectives are actualized over time. In making this assertion, one can draw attention to the urgent need to depoliticize the operations of the fund in terms of who benefits from it and not turn into a cash cow of sorts to political leaders. This is imperative if the nation must avoid the pitfalls of similar funds set up to empower targeted sections of the population.

On the whole one is enchanted by the realization that the Fund and its operations will be building on the successes already established by the scheme over the years. The Trust Fund instrument that will galvanize the youth development plans of the government. All that is required at this time is a speedy conclusion of the legislative process and a timely assent to it by the President.

The NYSC scheme has grown into an enviable and equable brand to the point of becoming a mentor and model for similar budding youth schemes in some African countries. What this means is that the NYSC is not of prime importance to Nigeria but also to some African countries. These countries have copied the scheme from Nigeria for its great achievements. Such countries are also waiting in the wings to further learn how Nigeria is reinvigorating the scheme of which the coming Trust Fund is one and will key in as usual.

COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO; NATIONAL COORDINATOR; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). HE WAS A NATIONAL COMMISSIONER AT THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

Text of a press briefing by HURIWA

JULY 15TH 2022 Abuja.

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